Bleats

Even If You Support Solar Power, You Probably Don't Know About This One Big Problem

This is why we can't have nice, renewable things.

In case you haven’t heard lately, we’re in a bit of a pickle when it comes to climate change and the need to shift towards more renewable energy sources like solar before the planet goes belly up.

Now despite having a PM who loves tree-killing coal so much he brought a lump of it to parliament, Australia isn’t doing too badly on the renewable power front as more people are getting into things like wind and rooftop solar power sources.

But while the shift towards solar is a positive step forward in combating the negative effects of climate change, the rise in adopting this sunlight sucking power source has resulted in a problem that we’ve somewhat neglected to take into account in our eagerness to save the planet: The mountain of hazardous waste solar panels will generate.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: Solar panels generally last about 20 years while the lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries used to store solar power at nighttime last between five to 15 years, and the inevitable replacing of said solar panels and batteries will cause an avalanche of hazardous waste that Australia isn’t quite ready to handle.

According to research by The Conversation, battery waste will become a big problem in 2025 and the amount of waste from retired solar panels in Australia by 2050 is projected to reach 1,500 kilotonnes.

It really is.

Now there ways to recycle solar panels and batteries in a safe way that not only prevents environmental and human hard but also provides us with valuable resources for reuse.

But Australia being Australia, we’re struggling to recycle simple waste like cardboard and plastic, let alone solar panels and batteries. Our current solution of “dumping it onto others to sort out” also won’t fly anymore since China has stopped taking our rubbish in and told us to figure out the problem ourselves.

This is quite worrying because if we can’t even get the names of our native animals right, how on earth can we be trusted to figure out this solar panel and battery waste problem on our own?

It’s a bit of an understatement.

South Australia and the ACT have taken steps to address this inevitable solar power waste problem by banning certain e-waste categories from being thrown in landfill but the conclusion from The Conversation is that Australia has quite a ways to go still.

But hey, battery waste may be the least of our worries in 2050 since that’s when the end of human civilisation is predicted to occur so there’s also that to look forward to.

Slavery Still Exists In Australia And It's Worse Than You Think

It's never gone away, only evolved.

When you talk about the topic of slavery, the image that comes up is usually something related to America or Africa. Thing is, Australia has a seedy history when it comes to slavery, which begins right back during our early convict days.

However, slavery didn’t just apply to the convicts who came over on the boats. The early stages of British colonisation of Australia saw Indigenous Australians be used as unpaid labour across many sectors and this awfulness existed right up until the 1970s. So yeah, Australia has a terrible record when it comes to slavery, which shouldn’t surprise anyone given our sketchy past.

You’d think that historical slavery is just a topic in history textbooks these days but the fact of the matter is that it still exists in the form of “modern slavery” and it remains a big problem.

We also call it that, sadly.

The Conversation dived deep into the topic and the sad truth is that Australia is still wrestling with “modern slavery”, which is a term used to describe human trafficking and slavery-esque practices like forced labour, domestic servitude, and forced marriage.

Anti-Slavery Australia has gathered stats and offered legal assistance to those who’ve experienced modern slavery over the last 17 years but the numbers show that the problem is likely worse than we all thought. The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates that only one in five victims are detected and combine this with the 123 people Anti-Slavery Australia helped in 2018 alone, what we’re seeing is that Australia’s slavery problem is more widespread than it seems.

Do better, Australia.

As for what modern slavery looks like in Australia, The Conversation explains each different example using several brilliant yet confronting comics – all of which are based on real life cases – that I’ll attempt to sum up in words.

Slavery/Domestic Servitude

This essentially involves situation where a person is controlled like they were someone’s property. For example:

  • A non-English speaking person comes over to Australia to work for a family as a domestic worker, only for the family to force them to work 12 hour shifts at their shop before doing domestic work at home afterwards. The person is forced to work seven days a week, weren’t allowed to leave the shop or house, and was threatened by their host family to not alert the police.

Servitude/Forced Labour

This form of modern slavery occurs when a person is unable to stop working or leave their workplace due to threats, coercion, and/or deception; and the person is deprived of their freedom outside of work. For example:

  • A person comes to Australia on a working holiday visa to work for someone. Their boss confiscates their passport and phone before locking them in a house with many other people on working visas. The person is forced to work long hours, seven days a week with no pay and could only eat, sleep, and shower when their boss told them to.

Forced Marriage

Forced marriages occur when a person is forced to get married without their consent due to threats, coercion, and/or deception. It can also occur when a person is unable to understand marriage ceremonies due to their age or mental capacity.

Now the difference between a forced marriage and an arranged/sham marriage is there’s consent in the latter two while the former doesn’t. An example for a forced marriage would be:

  • A person is forced to leave Australia and return to their home country to marry someone against their wishes by their own family. The person was threatened into it due to threats against the person’s partner and partner’s family, and were forced to assist in their new spouse’s Australian visa application before returning to Australia.

The explainer comics by The Conversation go in-depth into modern slavery in Australia and explains the topic far better than I just did so you should definitely have a look at them right here.

The one thing that’s clear is that Australia is still wrestling with its slavery problem and there’s a whole heap of work that still needs to be done so that it’s gone forever. This has been such a heavy topic to sit through so here’s a puppy to cleanse your palette.

Lodging Your Tax Return Is A Hell Of A Lot Easier Now

Tax time just became a lot less stressful.

We’re quickly approaching the end of the current financial year and that means another round of “oh god, I have to do my tax returns now, such a pain in the ass.”

Now this isn’t a big issue for accountants (since they know how to do this) or those fancy people who hire accountants but for those who have to do everything themselves, this can be a time-consuming task that’s rife with “what the hell am I even doing?” moments.

But luckily for most non-accountant people, lodging your tax return is a hell of a lot easier thanks to a small but super-helpful change to how you receive your end of financial year summary info.

Thanks to a new employer tax reporting system called Single Touch Payroll (STP) that was introduced this financial year, your end-of-year summary info (which is now called an income statement) will now be filed away on your MyGov account, meaning there’s no need to wait for several weeks or months for your employer to send those deets in the form of a group certificate to you since they can now do it all online.

Your year-to-date tax and super info will be kept up to date on your MyGov every time you get paid, which makes record-keeping far easier than the shelves of paper that you currently have.

So in short, everything you need to lodge your tax return is now in one convenient spot on your MyGov account, you now have an online record of your year-to-date tax and super deets, and you no longer have to wait forever for your employer to finalise group certificates before you lodge your tax returns.

Huzzah!

Heads up though because this new change may not be available for everyone as not all employers are reporting through STP, meaning you’ll still be stuck with the stress of waiting for a payment summary to be sent to you. You also technically don’t need a MyGov account to have all this info but you won’t be able to see anything until you get one so those who don’t have an account should quickly sign up. It doesn’t take long and will make life so much easier.

As for those with accountants, they’ll know exactly what’s going on already so no need to worry about anything. Besides, you’re paying them to worry about this stuff for you anyway.

Happy tax return lodging, everyone, and may the odds be ever in your favour. Or you could just leave it again until next year and let future you worry about it.

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